Effective security strategy most urgent priority for Afghanistan – Ban Ki-moon

26 September 2007 –

As Afghanistan continues to grapple with an ongoing insurgency, weak governance and a growing narcotics industry, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has cited an effective plan to ensure security as the war-torn nation’s most pressing need.

“The most urgent priority must be an effective, integrated civilian-military strategy and security plan for Afghanistan,” Mr. Ban wrote in his latest report on the situation in the country and its implications for peace and security.

“A coordinated military response is still needed to defeat insurgent and terrorist groups, but success in the medium term requires the engagement of communities and the provision of lasting security in which development can take place,” he added.

The Secretary-General stated that a key to sustaining security gains in the long term is increasing the capability, autonomy and integrity of the Afghan National Security Forces, especially the Afghan National Police.

He urged the Government to build on the outcomes of the Conference on the Rule of Law in Afghanistan, which he co-chaired with President Hamid Karzai in Rome in July, by finalizing its justice sector strategy and addressing the “apparent impunity enjoyed by those Government officials perceived to be abusing their offices.”

Highlighting the threat to reconstruction and development posed by the continued increase in opium production – which reached record levels this year – Mr. Ban called on Afghan authorities to prioritize interdiction and bring drug traffickers to justice.

Participants at a high-level meeting convened over the weekend at UN Headquarters in New York by Mr. Ban and President Karzai also expressed great concern at that situation, underlining the link between drug production and trafficking and the financing of terrorist activities, and agreed that “breaking this linkage is vital to creating a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile in New York today, President Karzai and the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Kemal Dervis launched the Afghanistan National Human Development Report 2007, which explores the importance of the rule of law to human development in the country.

A key finding of the report, prepared by an independent team of authors, is that the Afghan justice system must be rebuilt in a way that bridges modern and traditional justice institutions, protects rights and strengthens rule of law – “a pivotal step in Afghanistan’s march to successful political transition and development.”

The report makes a strong case for a “hybrid model of Afghan justice” with traditional systems of dispute settlement – jirgas and shuras – complementing the formal justice system.

“This report advocates a bold and creative approach to strengthening the justice institutions in Afghanistan,” President Karzai said at today’s launch.

“While remaining committed to universal principles of human rights and Afghan laws, we believe that the state and traditional justice bodies working together can help make justice and the rule of law more readily available to Afghans,” he added.

The report found that personal security is among the major impediments to achieving development targets in Afghanistan. In 2006 alone, more than 4,400 Afghans – including 1,000 civilians – died in anti-government violence, twice as many as in 2005.

“Security is a prerequisite for the rule of law that, in turn creates an atmosphere conducive to human development,” the report states. “Strengthening the rule of law can nonetheless, serve as an important means to advance the freedom of people to exercise choices and enhance their capacity to live meaningful and healthy lives.”

Afghanistan has adapted the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger, to nine Afghan MDGs.

While the country has maintained a steady growth rate and is likely to achieve its poverty goal by 2020, the report notes that the picture is “disappointing” for most of the other goals.

Some 6.6 million – or one third of Afghans – do not have enough food to eat, only 12 per cent of women and 32 per cent of men are literate, and the mortality rate for children under five years and the proportion of mothers dying in childbirth are among the highest in the world.

Mr. Dervis noted that the report showed that despite decades of war, Afghanistan has made measurable progress with regard to some key dimensions of human development as well as towards achieving Afghanistan’s development goals.

He added that “with the spectre of violence and uncertainty lifting ever so gradually from Afghanistan, the need to expand prospects of life and human development across the length and breadth of the country assume ever-greater urgency.”

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